God does some incredibly strange and wonderful things, doesn’t He?
I wasn’t going to go to the library last night. I was in my room, softly playing my music, relaxing, and about to open my physics homework to take one more look before I called it a night. Being a person who normally doesn’t do homework in her room but instead goes to the library or finds an empty classroom on campus, it was weird that I was okay with staying in my room. But, the laziness, non-desire to deal with people, and the always overwhelming temptation to buy another cup of coffee I probably don’t need, made me want to stay. Until something inside me said, “go to the library. You have to do your work there.”
So, I packed up my backpack, made the 30 foot trek to the library, found a nice spot in the cafe (with the scent of coffee overwhelming me– which I didn’t give in to), and got to work. I was somewhere mid-physics problem when I ran into my friend Adam, with whom I have a 60/40 being mean/ being nice relationship, and we briefly talked about our lives and our work after quipping about how annoyed we were to see the other one in the often frequented library. I thought “was this the reason I came all the way over here? So I could hear Adam talk about his struggles of work and school and so I could tell him my brief anecdote about my grandfather going to seminary with Victor P Hamilton, the author of my Pentateuch textbook?” That seemed a little weird, because I could hear his struggles (and insert a sassy comment intermixed with encouragement) anytime, and a quick scroll through Facebook and he would have seen my grandfather anecdote. So, I continued working on my Physics homework, still not sure why I was there.
Then, I remembered I had to print my Calc weekly and my Pentateuch assignment. Was this the reason I felt a desire to come all the way out here? So I wouldn’t have to rush before class to print the assignment? Probably not. There’s printers in the building across from my dorm, I have an hour and a half free before that class, I have a whole week to do the Calc weekly, and since I won’t have time to do it until at least Wednesday, I was in no rush to print it. But, I printed them anyway and got back to work.
At this point, I wasn’t making a lot of progress on my physics, so I gave up and switched to reading a commentary on Genesis 2 for my Pentateuch class (the aforementioned textbook whose author went to seminary with my grandfather). Then, a freshman who I don’t really know and have talked to maybe once came in and asked politely if she could sit with me. I told her “of course!” and went back to reading. I glanced up at one point throughout my reading and asked her what her major was and how she’d been enjoying her first year. She eventually left, and I again wondered if that was why I had felt such desire to go to the library– to give this girl some company as she worked on her stressful autobiography assignment for her First Year Seminar class. I didn’t really think so, but, since it wasn’t quite 10:00, and I hadn’t yet finished my physics, I decided I’d wait a little longer and get a little more work done.
I finished my physics assignment and was reading Genesis 3 in preparation for class the next day when a classmate said, “Hey, Rebekah, do you have your physics notes from Friday on you?” Since she was absent that day and hadn’t gotten the notes yet, I gave them to her willingly so she could finish the assignment I myself had just finished moments before. Unfortunately, I had about 10 verses left in Genesis 3 to read and I was thinking about leaving when I was done. Not wanting to leave without my notes, however, I decided I’d have to wait until she was finished with them, and then I could leave. So, I finished my assignments, and contemplated getting a little ahead while I had the time.
And then God, because He sometimes likes to ruin your own plans and throw off any feeling you have of being ahead on work, did exactly that. That classmate who had borrowed my notes approached me again and said, “Hey, do you think you could help my friend with her New Testament homework?” At this point, I kind of felt like I wanted to go back and sleep or get ahead on my work, but, being a Biblical Studies minor, lover of learning, and person who’s passionate about God’s Word, I agreed.
As I gathered my stuff to go over to the other side of the room where they were sitting, my classmate reassured her friend, “Don’t worry. She’s an expert at this.” I reassured them that I was not, in fact, an expert, and was, in fact, the furthest thing from one, but I was reasonably knowledgeable and super passionate, and now is as good a time as any to find out how much I actually understand and enjoy my minor.
I sat down and looked at her assignment. It wasn’t too difficult; it was just long and, quite honestly, should have been split into at least 2 assignments. (The work equated to reading all 4 gospels, comparing their introductions, talking about their connections to specific passages in the Old Testament, finding all the times Jesus mentions the Kingdom of God and explaining their meanings, and comparing the death and resurrection stories of each of the 4 gospels. There were 9 questions, each of which would require at least a paragraph or more of explanation.)
The first question instructed her to read the opening chapters of each book and compare writing styles, characteristics, and stories. I had done the exact same assignment last semester, so I figured it would be pretty painless. I asked her, “Ok, do you have your Bible?”
“It’s in my room”
“That’s alright, we can use mine.”
“You have yours’ with you?”
“Absolutely. I always do.” (Something that should be known about me: there are two things I always have in my backpack– a journal and my Bible. Because I never know when I’ll need to write something down or look something up. And, although I have the Bible app on my phone, nothing is better than seeing the Word printed on a page and being able to hold it in my hand).
I handed it to her and asked her to turn to Matthew.
“I don’t know where that is,” she replied, almost timidly, like she was worried that I would judge her or God would smite her.
I showed her how to find it, and I told her about the Bible app she could download on her phone if she wanted. “Cool!” she exclaimed, “I did not know you could do that.”
Admittedly, as I was waiting for her app to download, I looked at my watch and thought, “Oh man, I should have left earlier. How can I help her with her New Testament homework if she has no idea what it even is?” I wondered how someone’s knowledge could be so limited that it literally doesn’t even exist. Even growing up in a public high school, all my non Christian classmates had at least some knowledge of the Bible, what it was,, how it functioned, and how it was structured.
But, I figured now is as good a time as any to test out both my knowledge and my passion, so, I pressed on. As the app was downloading, I flipped to one of the gospels in my Bible, opened another on my phone, and then instructed her to find one of the others on her phone. I gave her a brief run down, for context, of what the purpose of the gospels is, then, I had her read the stories. As she was reading, I chatted with my physics classmate, and helped her with some of her work, familiarized myself with the rest of the NT assignment, and thought about how I could explain these amazing stories to someone with no knowledge. I thought about how I could start at square one– how could I answer these questions without spending hours explaining things that I grew up learning, that are so ingrained in me they’ve become second nature. I wondered how I could explain things that I myself had learned in the past year, but that excite me as if I’d studied them my whole life. I thought about how the only thing this girl had were the Words in front of her, my limited knowledge, and my passion.
She finished reading and began summarizing. I gave her a brief lesson about distinguishing chapters and verses, and she began writing. She then asked me to summarize Luke for her. She was confused about John the Baptist and Jesus and wasn’t sure who was who, who did what, and why John was important. I summarized it for her, and added a few fun facts of my own, and waited for her to write it all down. Then, I watched as she read and interpreted John. I was slightly shocked she understood John so well. I mean, John is my personal favorite gospel writer (although, Matthew’s pretty good too…), but he can sometimes be a super cryptic and difficult to understand writer, especially if you have no background or context whatsoever. Then, I discovered she was a communication major, and maybe that’s why she appreciated John so much. I briefly went a little off topic and talked about my love for John.
To make a long story short, I walked her through all the aspects of her assignment, added a few of my own fun facts and historical context comments in there for comprehension purposes. I tried to answer the questions her professor posed about connections to the Old Testament as much as possible without overwhelming her or making it super obvious that my Old Testament knowledge pales in comparison to my New Testament knowledge. I summarized the gospels, hit on the unique details of each gospel writers’ death and crucifixion stories, and basically summarized N.T Wright’s novel Simply Jesus. (If you haven’t read it– why? What are you waiting for. It’s amazing. Shout out to my NT professor for making us read that.)
By the end, I figured she would be a little overwhelmed. So, I let her read and answer the last question on her own (since it was mostly an opinion question anyway), and began to pack up my stuff. At this point, it had been over an hour, it was almost midnight, and any hope I had of getting ahead on homework had passed. But, I waited to see if she had any questions for me or anything she wanted to talk about. I wasn’t sure if what I had said made sense, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t confuse the poor girl more than necessary.
When she finished writing she said, “That was great! I’m sorry I kept you away from your work, but I did enjoy that.”
“It was my pleasure, I enjoyed it too. Like I said, I’m a Biblical studies minor, so I’m always down for talking Scripture.”
As I was preparing to go she asked me, “Where’d you get your Bible? Yours’ is so much easier to understand than mine.” So, of course this led to a brief discussion about Biblical translations and which versions I prefer and which ones Biblical scholars agree are good. Then, she asked if we could exchange phone numbers.
“It’s so great that [physics classmate] just found you! I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee sometime and do this again. And, I will probably need your help again.”
I gave her my number, I wished her luck on the rest of her assignments, and I left. But, I didn’t stop thinking about it.
Walking back to my dorm, in the rain, I was smiling. Not because I had just dropped some knowledge bombs on someone, or that I had just spent an hour and a half of my life doing something far more important than Calculus homework, or that I had a chance to see if I really have chosen the right path in life, but I was smiling because I was hopeful, joy-filled, and warm.
I felt hopeful that something I said may have sparked an interest in her. Maybe it was something I said about Christ’s purpose, maybe it was the joke I made about how I was that kid in Old and New Testament who would say “this is my favorite book!” before every book we studied. I realized that she came to Roberts for very different reasons than I did. I wanted a place where I would be challenged in my faith and pushed to grow, and she wanted the scholarship money she was offered because of volleyball. But, I was joy-filled that, even if that class was required, she had taken the time to sit, listen, and talk about it with me instead of running and dropping the class at the first sign of struggle. And I had a strange feeling of warmth, that I am still not sure how to describe. My whole heart was happy, like for a minute it forgot the brain controlled happiness because it took it all for itself, and it still hasn’t let go.
And, I couldn’t stop thinking about this encounter. As evidenced by the fact that I had promised I’d be in bed by 10 last night, and it is now 1:45 the next morning, and I am still awake writing this post, this encounter meant a lot to me.
I’m not sure where this girl will go with everything I told her tonight. I certainly hope she texts me and asks me for help again, and I hope that something I said resonated with her. But, I don’t know. I do know that I am left now with more reassurance, more confidence, and more doubt.
I”m left with reassurance that I have a knowledge of the Scriptures and a passion and desire to learn more about them and learn more from them. I am left with more confidence that I am somewhere on the right path for my life and that pursuing more, deeper studies into this is something I need to be doing and one thing I love to do. But, I am also left with more doubt about whether or not I have chosen the path in life that I actually want to take. Now, to be fair, I have a “I should change my major” crisis about once every week or two, but this time, something’s different. I”m left with a lot of questions, few answers, too many feelings, and not enough words to describe it all. But, I’ll leave it at this: God does some wonderfully strange and amazing things. And I am so glad He sent me to the library tonight, and didn’t allow me to leave, despite all the times I wanted to.